by George Veck
North Wales and Christopher “Chrissy” Bray, drug dealer to the like-minded locals has no qualms with his place being used as a twenty-four-hour, hard-core party house complete with bare-knuckle boxing in the kitchen. In fact, he thoroughly encourages it.
But, when events in the house take a sobering turn, for Chrissy at least, he tries to change, attending college and attracting a new set of friends. Thing is, Chrissy’s old pals have no intention of letting him move on, even if Chrissy thinks he can…
I read Veck’s first novel, One Visit, in January* and wondered how Spurious Scrapper would measure up. Personally, Veck’s really honed his narrative skills with this outing.
Spurious Scrapper shows natural, clear progression as a writer and his literary evolution pays hugely compelling dividends for the reader. The novel is a complete rampage, although it operates on several levels which a reader can choose to engage with or not. Primarily, Veck has nailed the squalid degeneracy of Chrissy and Co., perfectly and their daily lives of sordid resourcefulness.
If a reader has any awareness of the world that Veck writes about in Spurious Scrapper, they will know it’s absolutely, and sadly, authentic without exaggeration or gratuity.
Candid and keenly observed, it’s deceptively nuanced down to clever, fine details that almost pass you by as you become so absorbed in this relentless catalogue of utter carnage.
The chaos is relayed in matter-of-fact tones, which, begins to normalize the absolutely no holds barred dissolute behavior for the reader as much as for the characters.
The pace is blistering throughout but always maintains focus. I found it laugh-out-loud funny in several places, there’s a sharp, knowing level of satire throughout the book, combined with weary cynicism, and some of the scrapes and exchanges are comedy gold.
However, underneath the guffawing at the limitless substance-fuelled antics of this debased bunch, there’s a serious sub-textual commentary and reflection on a community that has fallen too far down through the cracks in society to have any hope of redemption.
This serious undercurrent is explored through a couple of the cast but chiefly, Chrissy. Little nuggets here and there hint at his reasons for numbing himself and also providing a sesh pad for his “friends”.
These hints grow louder as the novel progresses. Chrissy’s issues take an introspectively dark turn and, consequently, the ending is especially bitter with the brutal futility and sheer waste of what, briefly, might have been.
Likewise, Sam, who rents a room in Chrissy’s. He is horribly pathetic as his vulnerabilities threaten to overwhelm him, and his weaknesses are exploited by others to tragi-comic effect.
His father, Thomas, is rendered with poignancy in his hopelessness. Chrissy’s mother, Sigrid, stepfather, Don, and Thomas’s wife, Shaz, are hardened, oblivious, and pretty derelict. Although, in common with several characters, all are brushed with vicious cunning and grasping self-preservation.
Although the mayhem still rages, there is a twist around halfway, and the tone of the novel shifts. This is due to a death, which is unexpected despite the majority of the cast guzzling their own body weight in drugs and alcohol.
For a short spell, I wondered if the narrative would falter, but the main plot of the novel takes quiet shape, and a nasty sense of inevitability kicks in, aided by the deeply unpleasant Connor. I also pondered whether Chrissy’s character arc at this stage was convincing but as flashes of backstory are revealed and the story hurtles towards its callous conclusion, he remains, unfortunately, all too credible.
Spurious Scrapper is a fast-moving and grimly hilarious novel that takes the reader into a wretched subterranean world that is as appalling as it is compelling. Highly recommended.
*Click here for my review of One Visit.